Officer Porter asks appeals court to block order compelling him to testify in Goodson case

Officer William G. Porter asked Maryland's second-highest court Thursday to block a judge's ruling that he must testify for the state in the coming trial of a fellow police officer in the death of Freddie Gray.

Gary Proctor, one of Porter's attorneys, delivered the motion seeking an injunction to the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis on Thursday. Defense attorneys contend that the limited immunity granted Porter by Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams does not protect him from facing new charges.


"The actions of the state and the circuit court are without precedent in Maryland law," Porter's attorneys wrote in their request for an injunction. "This court needs to provide guidance."

Court officials said Porter's appeal could be handled in one of two ways. A panel of judges could issue an order or schedule a hearing, court officials said. They offered no timetable for when the court might respond to Porter's request.


A day earlier at a pretrial hearing in the case against Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Williams said Porter must take the stand in the case. Goodson's trial on charges that include second-degree depraved-heart murder, the most serious charge leveled in Gray's death, is scheduled to begin with jury selection Monday.

The judge's order provided that nothing Porter says at Goodson's trial can be used against him in his own retrial scheduled for June. Porter's first trial ended in a mistrial last month after the 12-member jury could not reach a consensus on any of the four charges against him, including involuntary manslaughter.

Williams said the law is very clear that the "use or derivative use" immunity granted to Porter would protect his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However, Williams also acknowledged that his ruling was unprecedented.

If Williams' order stands, Porter would be forced to testify at Goodson's trial and would face contempt charges and jail time if he tried to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on the stand.

Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police transport van April 12 and died a week later. Six officers were charged in his arrest and death; all have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors have said Porter is a material witness in the case against Goodson and another officer, Sgt. Alicia D. White, who also faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter and is scheduled to be tried after Goodson.

Porter's attorneys have argued that the immunity provided for testimony in the Goodson case would not protect Porter in several important ways, including using his testimony against him in a later federal case. The FBI also is investigating Gray's death.

Porter's attorneys also have said that testifying in Goodson's case would expose Porter to a possible perjury charge that the immunity would not protect him against, because prosecutors already have called Porter a liar based on his testimony in his own trial.

Prosecutors and the officers' attorneys are forbidden from discussing the case because of a gag order imposed by Williams.

In their motion filed Thursday, Porter's attorneys said the appeals court "needs to provide guidance" in this unprecedented situation and should stay the lower court's order until the appeal is decided.

"Two business days from today, the trial of Officer Goodson starts. A few business days after that, absent action from this Court, Officer Porter, despite his protestations, will be required to take an oath and testify," his attorneys wrote. "If he does not, he will go to jail. If he does, and he reiterates what he repeated before, the state has already called that perjury, for which Porter has been offered no protection. If he deviates in any way from his earlier testimony then it is perjury, for which Porter remains defenseless."

They urged the court to act quickly.


"The bell cannot be unrung, and Porter will be unable to challenge it later," his attorneys wrote. "It is imperative that this Court act with alacrity, to give its aegis to one of our rights we hold most dear."

Also Thursday, Williams pushed back the trial dates of two other officers charged in Gray's death.

White was scheduled to go to trial Jan. 25, days after the expected conclusion of Goodson's trial. White's new trial date is Feb. 8.

The trial of Officer Garrett E. Miller was pushed back to March 7. His trial had been scheduled to begin Feb. 9.

Officer Edward M. Nero's trial date of Feb. 22 and the March 9 date for Lt. Brian W. Rice remain unchanged.


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